14 January 2006

Experimental writing 1

I’ve been experimenting with different ways to set down my initial draft for the new chapters I’ve written. An articles from my favourite website The Writer’s Store helped me develop the new style. Although the article is concerned with screen writing the method suit my style for novel writing. It could be that I just happen to think in visual terms anyway – I’m weird like that – but it seems to me that screen writing techniques transfer very well to modern novel writing especially as everyone is so familiar with TV, computer games and DVDs. I think fiction needs to work visually in the mind of the reader.
The article concerns itself with producing the ‘Extended Brief’[http://www.writersstore.com/article.php?articles_id=525]. This is a scene by scene summary written in the present tense. It needs to include full descriptions of every scene, setting, prop, and character. Including every character’s dialogue, emotions, thoughts and aims, and cover all the senses (touch, feel, smell, sight, sound). It doesn’t matter if the detail is relevant to the story or not at this stage the idea is to pack in as much information about the scene as possible. When you come to write your first draft you cherry pick the details relevant to the story and convert to your chosen tense. Using this method helps me to remain flexible and get a good feel for each scene without having ‘committed it to paper’. It also helps me work out the cause and effect between each scene without having to cut too much when it’s wrong, because it’s only a summary. The first time I tried it I was surprised by how few details I left out of my first draft. It also improved my active writing no end.
Does anyone else use anything similar?

1 comment:

Dave said...

Hi Peter, Dave here (Search for the Incas)....

I thought I'd have a look at your blog at long last. Nice looking webpage - very slick indeed.

Having looked briefly (it's late right now) at the expanded brief technique, it looks extremely useful. Your new prologue shows that screenwriting techniques have certainly worked for you. In fact, it could be exactly what I need. Until now, I've been planning each part of my book in vague terms, like one character begins to suspect another etc, and discovering things as I write.

It has been useful because it lets me get into the mood of the story, kick starts my imagination, and I come up with ideas I would not have just through story planning. I find it fun to write that way. It gives me room to discover things myself every time I write something.

BUT, now I've finished another draft of my part 1, I'm pulling my hair out trying to get everything to hang together; to fill the gaping plot holes; and even just to get it making sense.

This technique could help me a lot - so a great find on your part and thanks for highlighting it. It should give me a fresh perspective and framework to get a much more coherent story.

How is Mervyn these days? Are you working your entire novel through with this technique at the moment? As I said before, I like the new style you put forward in your prologue - can't wait to see this applied to other chapters.

I've just finished reading Mortal Engines, which you recommended, and now I'm already halfway through the sequel. It's exactly to my taste. Reeve can really tell a story and his imagination is quite astounding. Have you read Pullman's 'His Dark Materials'? That's one of my favourites, though it's not as fast-paced and pithy as Reeve's books.

Anyway, I hope Mervyn's going well. I'm sure I'll be calling on your critical eye again soon!

Dave